Monday, June 16, 2014

Reader's Review: "Pure Control" by C. Lloyd Brill

*Taken from
When a metallic cube with unusual controls inside is unearthed during the building of an amusement park, the developer decides to build it into an attraction. Giancarlo, Quinn, Tyrell and their families are among the first to visit this attraction when they find themselves trapped in the room. But the strange controls are more than mere window dressing. And the room is intended for other purposes than entertainment. Purposes the group is not prepared for. The situation they're locked in seems impossible and spirals out of control, placing everyone in danger. Giancarlo is forced to take the role of leader, facing an ever-more dangerous adversary when one of the group members takes his control too far as they attempt to find a way out.

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Review: There are five primary areas in which I judge the books I read. It works out in the rating system used in virtually every platform because there are five stars. A book that scores high marks in each area will earn all five stars from me. Out of the books I've reviewed do far, all have scored top marks. So why not this one? Let me explain using the five criteria.

Premise +1
Brill's premise is rock-solid: a cube is discovered and no one knows how to work it, so it's left as an attraction in an amusement park. Perfect opening for all sorts of shenanigans—because every sci-fi enthusiast knows that alien tech is not something to be taken lightly. Top-shelf stuff, this is! Simple enough beginnings, with infinitely complex potential. Well done!

Characters +0.5
That being said, this might be personal (and from the other reviews I fear I might be alone in this—so don't take my word for it!) but I took issue with the painstakingly multiracial group: American army-types who are bog and bulky and serve as the antagonists (not necessarily because they're any sort of enemy, but that they manage to antagonize every other character); the Hispanic man and two sons; the African-American couple with three girls; the Caucasian newly-engaged couple, and a random Vietnamese boy who says little and serves as kind of the linchpin of everyone's concern. While having multiple races represented in one's characters is an okay thing... I feel like Brill's emphatic delineation in the very first chapters of this distinction made a bigger deal of it than it ought to have been. I felt like he was forcing his idea of the character's appearance on the reader, instead of letting the character's personality speak for itself.

Which leads me to the next category...

Dialogue +0.5
There is plenty of dialogue to be had, which is a wonderful thing. Some novels are so focused on what is going on and how it is happening and hustling the characters from one scenario to the next that there is little time to discover how the characters actually feel, what they think about their situation, and whether they're the sort who has any idea what might happen next. Brill is not that way... In fact, the setting seems kind of sparse and bland compared to the wealth of color (in more ways than one) in the characters' reactions to it. There is an element of conversation that establishes a character's voice and personality, so that one may have a scene comprised entirely of quotes, and still the reader understands exactly who is speaking.
Brill's characters have voices all right—one I found particularly distasteful in that every fourth word was an unwarranted cuss, and he was completely out of line in his treatment of everybody, the whole way through. Beyond this man, and one other—a quiet, gentle soul, and the only voice of real reason in the whole "cast"—the others, unfortunately, ended up as merely nuances of the same voice: the youngest little girl talked like her father, the attendant (a girl) had essentially the same "voice" as one of the visitors (a guy), and the effect was sadly undermined.

Plotlines +0.5
The next category is the actual line the plot takes. Now, perhaps I am being a bit unfair in this, because, honestly, Brill takes a very unique approach that I did not expect at first, but did work reasonably well in the context of the premise. Can it be summarized in one sentence? I'd say so, yes. Did it "meander" through scenes at all? Unfortunately, yes; rather too much, I'm afraid. While, yes, it's okay to give a fast-moving plot a break sometimes, to let the reader become better acquainted with the characters... Brill provides very little back-story, and about the only "character development" happens when one of the "good characters" literally gets in bed with the "bad character." I would have loved to hear the characters talking about themselves more, understanding why they assumed the various roles in the cast, other than simply on the writer's whim. What happened to Kevin's mom?how did An get separated from his parents? What sort of background does Tori come from? Tyrell has three daughters, has he ever wanted a son? Why is Quinn making a big deal about calling Stacey gay when he so obviously is not?
All in all, the bulk of the plot and the challenges faced by the characters were both reasonable and credible. Leaving the reader wanting more is never a bad thing, am I right?

Resolution +1
I'll finish the review with full marks for the resolution. The main danger was averted, the characters came through it and were unified—and it was wonderfully unexpected. It really did resolve a lot of things; not with a nice little bow around every little plot thread, but it got the job done. It leaves a lot of things under the control of the reader, which is innovative and highly effective for engaging the reader. Rather than patting down every little question with answers of his own, Brill leaves the answers up to the reader, to be as simple or as complicated as they wish.

All-in-all, this book is a great read, a strong debut, and a fantastic launch of a promising author!

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